Real Soap Firms

Handcrafted soap firms range in size from part-time family operations to corporations with dozens of employees. While tiny compared to the commodity soap giants, they are able to compete in the specialized markets they have targeted. The firms of most interest to us are those that use the cold process to make solid and liquid soaps. I visited three such firms in 2007.

Vermont Soapworks, http://www.vermontsoap.com/, of Middlebury, VT, specializes in bar and liquid soap made from certified organic oils. They operate two large, steam-jacketed soap kettles for making bar soap, and two large kettles for making liquid soap. Bar soap is poured into block molds about 3 feet on a side. The blocks are split into logs, and the logs cut into bars. The operation occupies a large warehouse, including a retail center and soap museum.

SunFeather Natural Soap Company, http://www.sunfeather.com/ specializes in colorful, fun, and unusual soaps. They operate a single, large soap pot. During my visit, the pot was filled, poured, and filled again, making maximum use out of the equipment. The manufacturing space is about the size of the Chemistry floor at Hampden-Sydney College, and includes a retail space about the size of our post office.

Alabu Soap, http://www.alabu.com/, specializes in goat milk soap. This is a family operation that occupies the basement of the family home. Two maps, a US map and a world map, sport pins that mark domestic and international customers. They use a single soap pot to fill their distinctive oval, vertical molds.